Mayors' Council announces historic $7 billion transportation deal
'This is the largest transit funding announcement in B.C. history'
Transit users will pay more in taxes and fees under a $7 billion transit and transportation infrastructure deal between the Mayors' Council and the province of B.C.
"This is the largest transit funding announcement in B.C. history and one of the largest ever across this nation," said Mayors' Council chair and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.
The funding announcement is Phase 2 of the 10-year transportation plan.
Corrigan said the deal includes the construction of a light rail.system to Surrey, the extension of the Millennium Line along Broadway Avenue, upgrades to the existing Expo-Millennium Lines to expand passenger capacity and improvements to sidewalks, bikeways, multi-use pathways and roadways
The plan also calls for 900,000 more hours of bus service a year.
To deliver on these promises, the Mayors' Council is proposing a two percent increase to all transit fares over two years, beginning in 2020, a $5.50-a-year increase in property taxes per average household, beginning in 2019, and an additional $300 to $600 fee per unit for new residential developments.
Public consultation on the Broadway rapid transit line and Surrey's LRT will happen in April and May, with construction scheduled to begin in late 2019 or early 2020.
Corrigan says there was a heated debate around the Mayors' council table over where the money should come from.
He had previously opposed raising property taxes but says he signed off on the funding plan, because the opportunity was too big to pass up.
"While it's never palatable to raise taxes, what we're generating with this amount of money is something well beyond everyone's expectations," Corrigan said.
Development fees at issue
Surrey city Coun. Tom Gill says he felt uneasy about the development fee in the middle of an affordable housing crisis but he agrees that compromise was needed.
"When you're looking at the development cost charges, certainly it's a burden," he said.
"But certainly when you look at the opportunity for the developers to be able to capitalize on additional density, there's going to be a fit there, and it's going to be something that's practical for developers."
The B.C. Taxpayers Federation, however, worries about whether the development fee will drive up housing prices.
"Cheering this as if it's a gigantic win, that tone is a bit problematic for taxpayers," said executive director Kris Sims.
"We're also concerned that this might put somewhat of a damper on building new housing supply."
Federal government's role
Ottawa committed $2.2 billion in transit funding for Metro Vancouver in last year's budget.
That money is meant to cover about 40 per cent of what is needed to fund the Surrey LRT and the Broadway extension of the Millennium Line.
Derek Corrigan defeated Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to become chair of the Mayors' Council last December.
The council has representatives from the 21 municipalities within TransLink's service area — that approve long-term transportation strategies and investments in TransLink.